“I dream of lost | vocabularies that might express some of what | we no longer can.” ~ Jack Gilbert, from “The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart”

Aleksandr Golovin Birch Trees oil on canvas

“Birch Trees” (oil on canvas)
by Aleksandr Golovin


Jan Mankes Maanacht 1914

“Maanacht” (1914)
by Jan Mankes

 Two for Tuesday: Jack Gilbert

Horses at Midnight without a Moon

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there’s music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing.
Our spirit persists like a man struggling
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

                   

Umberto Moggioli Sera di Primavera aka Spring Evening, Venezia 1914

“Sera di Primavera, Venezia” (1914)
by Umberto Moggioli

Bring in the Gods

Bring in the gods, I say, and he goes out. When he comes
back and I know they are with him, I say, Put tables in front
of them so they may be seated, and food upon the tables
so they may eat. When they have eaten, I ask which of them
will question me. Let him hold up his hand, I say.
The one on the left raises his hand. I tell him to ask.
Where are you now, he says. I stand on top of myself, I hear
myself answer. I stand on myself like a hilltop and my life
is spread before me. Does it surprise you, he asks. I explain
that in our youth and for a long time after our youth we cannot
see our lives. Because we are inside of that. Because we can
see no shape to it, since we have nothing to compare it to.
We have not seen it grow and change because we are too close.
We don’t know the names of things that would bind them to us,
so we cannot feed on them. One near the middle asks why not.
Because we don’t have the knack for eating what we are living.
Why is that? she asks. Because we are too much in a hurry.
Where are you now? the one one left says. With the ghosts.
I am with Gianna those two years in Perugia. Meeting secretly
in the thirteenth-century alleys of stone. Walking in the fields
through the spring light, she well dressed and walking in heels
over the plowed land. We are just outside the city walls
hidden under the thorny blackberry bushes and her breasts naked.
I am with her those many twilights in the olive orchards,
holding the heart of her as she whimpers. Now where are you?
he says. I am with Linda those years and years. In American
cities, in Copenhagen, on Greek islands season after season.
Lindos and Monolithos and the other places. I am with Michiko
for eleven years, East and West, holding her clear in my mind
the way a native can hold all of his village at one moment.
Where are you now? he says. I am standing on myself the way
a bird sits in her nest, with the babies half asleep underneath
and the world all leaves and morning air. What do you want?
a blonde one asks. To keep what I already have, I say. You ask
too much, he says sternly. Then you are at peace, she says.
I am not at peace, I tell her. I want to fail. I am hungry
for what I am becoming. What will you do? she asks. I will
continue north, carrying the past in my arms, flying into winter.

                   

Music by Plumb, “Cut”

“I bear the wounds of all the battles I avoided.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet

Milton Avery Moon Path 1957 watercolor on paper

“Moon Path” (1957, watercolor on paper)
by Milton Avery


“My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet

Fernando Pessoa, writing as Bernardo Soares in The Book of Disquiet:

I am, in large measure, the selfsame prose I write . . . I’ve made myself into the character of a book, a life one reads. Whatever I feel is felt (against my will) so that I can write that I felt it. Whatever I think is promptly put into words, mixed with images that undo it, cast into rhythms that are something else altogether. From so much self-revising, I’ve destroyed myself. From so much self-thinking, I’m now my thoughts and not I. I plumbed myself and dropped the plumb; I spend my life wondering if I’m deep or not, with no remaining plumb except my gaze that shows me blackly vivid in the mirror at the bottom of the well—my own face that observes me observing it.
(Text 193, dated 2 September 1931)

Music by Sufjan Stevens, “All the Trees of the Field will Clap their Hands . . .”

“My soul, embalmed in ink . . .” ~ Elton Glaser, from “Dirge in the Chalumeau Register”

Jan Sluyters Moon Night

“Moon Night” (before 1911?)
by Jan Sluyters


“One can sometimes
touch, in the distance between two people,
a moment of another person’s endless dream.” ~Yves Bonnefoy, from In the Shadow’s Light

Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and hot, 90 degrees. Too hot to think clearly.

Jan Sluyters Sunrise oil on canvas 1910

“Sunrise” (1910, oil on canvas)
by Jan Sluyters

Too many thoughts to be cohesive:

  • We wish for something so deeply only to have the reality of it be so disparate from our imaginings.
  • We write songs in our heads about all of the things we lack, but the words never quite fit the melodies.
  • My brain is replete with complex yearnings, yet I am unable to find a way in which to fill these chasms.
  • What we are is so very different from who we are.
  • Need is identified by the individual, leaving little room for insincere attempts to placate and pacify.

“We look up at the same stars, and see such different things.” ~ George R. R. Martin, from A Storm of Swords

Jan Sluyters Morning Glory 1909 oil on canvas

“Morning Glory” (1909, oil on canvas)
by Jan Sluyters

I continually find scraps of paper with snatches of words and phrases, but no context, so I don’t know what they mean, much like life.

  • So many weeks of being alone and lonely and having no idea as to how to ameliorate the sadness only to have the sadness become a permanent attendant.
  • Loneliness is ephemeral, yet incongruously, it can seep into the edges of moments in which we are not alone.
  • We traverse the deserts of our lives, travel these landscapes looking for the familiar, the taste of water on our dry lips.
  • The heart is a self-fulfilling prophet of despair.
  • When talking becomes too tangled, the only victor is silence.

“I have come to the borders of sleep,
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight,
Or winding, soon or late;
They cannot choose.” ~ Edward Thomas, from “Lights Out”

Jan Sluyters Full Moon on the Water 1912 oil on canvas

“Full Moon on the Water” (1912, oil on canvas)
by Jan Sluyters

I grow weary of the open-ended nature of life, would that it could be seen in advance.

  • How can two people stand side-by-side beneath the same night sky and be unable to share the same brief snatches of beauty?
  • Horizons become limited by our myopic views of life, death, and love.
  • Love is a word heavy with deceit, laden with misinterpretation.
  • I had believed that my viewpoint had merit in your eyes, mistakenly so, it seems.
  • The veins beneath the skin, the heart’s steady beat, a map to what we are—yet so many of the blue lines are false horizons.
  • I do not understand this reality—its labyrinthine truth is too twisted to discern.

“Between one being and another, there is a gulf, a discontinuity.” ~ Georges Bataille, from Erotism: Death and Sensuality

Jan Sluyters Landscape by Moonlight II 1911 oil on canvas

“Landscape by Moonlight II” (1911, oil on canvas)
by Jan Sluyters

I am so tired, weary to the bone, and I do not harbor enough energy to bridge this gulf.

  • The joy of life lies hidden too deeply to be found most days.
  • There is no corner large enough to hide me, even when I am this small.
  • Oh how I long for earnest conversation, the honest camaraderie that once was.
  • We all hide our selves from the light, no matter how much we may deny it, because darkness is so much easier to enfold.
  • True north is impossible to pinpoint when two people come to it from such different points on the compass.

“I do not know whether to be joy-white with my spirit
Or rent-gray with the blown remnants of my mind.” ~ Maxwell Bodenheim, from A Man to a Dead Woman”

Jan Sluyters Forest Trail 1910 oil on canvas

“Forest Trail” (1910, oil on canvas)
by Jan Sluyters

I failed to notice that I and my opinions had become irrelevant, much to my own chagrin.

  • Longing is the most pregnant of two-syllable words, followed only by heartache, so intricate are their definitions.
  • Betrayal is a complicated word, one most people are unable to identify as betrayal is like smoke—dense at first, transparent later.
  • The weight of words drags us down to the silty bottom, yet it is only through words that we will be able to float above the water line once more.
  • The translucent nature of my need offers you a map easy enough to follow to my heart, yet you spit upon my fire.
  • Silence of the heart comes from suffering of the soul, and neither are easily repaired.
  • Apology is a word heavy with incomprehensible implications.

All images are by Dutch artist, Jan Sluyters (1881-1957).

Music by Night Beds, “Even if We Try”


                   

Bioluminescence

  1. Candela

The eggs burn softly
in the earth, and when glow worms
hatch out, ravenous, each one comes with a tiny
bright square of light like the view-hole to a
furnace notched in its belly.
Can you feel their heat? Their hunger for the tender
moonstruck flesh of slugs and snails?

  1. Lambert

Sometimes at night, fire
flies are startled by lightning,
the tympani-drum flutter of thunder rumbling the storm
home, and they all flash at once in surprise—a quick
blinking open of sleepy
green nocturnal eyes, a phosphorescent murmur:
Go back to sleep. It’s just rain

  1. Lumen

How vulnerable
we would all be if longing
shone through our bodies, if our skins were translucent
lanterns flushed with yellow flame leaping in the strange
and unpredictable winds
of our desire, like the neon Morse code fireflies
use to brazenly flick the night.

  1. Luciferin

You are a dusky
angel drawn to the gleaming
beam of my porch light, a brief embered orange blaze
from your cigarette, sizzle of sparks splattering
the asphalt of my sidewalk.
Your touch like sooty moth wings, and I glow, suffused
with your heat, your scent, your light.

~ Lee Ann Roripaugh

” . . . if there are distances that shine | they shine like the eyes of pain.” ~ Peter Everwine, from “At the Playground, Singing for Psychiatric Outpatients”

Felice Casorati Notturno 1912-13 oil on canvas

“Notturno” (1912-13, oil on canva)
by Felice Casorati


Two for Tuesday: Peter Everwine

Felice Casorati, Il sogno del melograno The Dream of the Pomegranate 1912 oil on canvas

“Il Sogno del Melograno” (1912, oil on canvas)
by Felice Casorati

Back from the Fields

Until nightfall my son ran in the fields,
looking for God knows what.
Flowers, perhaps. Odd birds on the wing.
Something to fill an empty spot.
Maybe a luminous angel
or a country girl with a secret dark.
He came back empty-handed,
or so I thought.

Now I find them:
thistles, goatheads,
the barbed weeds
all those with hooks or horns
the snaggle-toothed, the grinning ones
those wearing lantern jaws,
old ones in beards, leapers
in silk leggings, the multiple
pocked moons and spiny satellites, all those
with juices and saps
like the fingers of thieves
nation after nation of grasses
that dig in, that burrow, that hug winds
and grab handholds
in whatever lean place.

                   

Felice Casorati Dante, Purgatorio XXVII, 113 1917

“Per sé e suo ciel concepe e figlia (Dal Purgatorio XXVIII, 113 di Dante)” (1917, tempera on canvas)
by Felice Casorati

Another Spring

Another spring.
In a corner under the eaves
of the porch, a nesting dove—
the same returning dove—tosses
a few dry weeds, willy-nilly,
into the prevailing wind, then waits
for them to fall in place. Some do.

*

Because I mean her no harm
she allows me to draw close
to her precarious balcony.
I bid her good morning,
she cocks her head at me and blinks—
two old familiars who share
a moment of dappled light falling
on the peaceable kingdom
of the front porch.

*

This morning, a light drift
of feathers on the lawn
and the day’s expectations sour.
Each spring this dumb show of events
repeats itself: a nest abandoned, another
plundered by crow or jay, eggs
spilled from their thatch, an inch
of blue flesh, like a maimed thumb,
drying in the sun.

*

Does the dove, in its season,
despite its plaintive moan, learn nothing?
And I, in mine? I fetch the paper
from the lawn, people drive by
to another day of work.
Nothing is brought to completion.
Later I’ll sweep away the nest—empty,
again, of everything but a blind
belief in the possible.

                   

Music by Kill it Kid, “Caroline”

“Moments: beware the poetry of moments. Many of those moments are literary, remember. They have a past, a dreary past.” ~ Theodore Roethke, from “The Poet’s Business”

In the Japanese
tongue of the
mind’s eye one
two syllable word
tells of
the fringe of rain
clinging to the eaves
and of the grey-green
fronds of wild parsley. ~ Denise Levertov, “Grey Sparrow Addresses the Mind’s Ear”

Here are a few of Ohara Hale’s illustrations of Denise Levertov’s poems as part of a Brain Pickings collaboration with 92Y:

Listen to Denise Levertov read her poems:

Love Song

Your beauty, which I lost sight of once
for a long time, is long,
not symmetrical, and wears
the earth colors that make me see it.

A long beauty, what is that?
A song
that can be sung over and over,
long notes or long bones.

Love is a landscape the long mountains
define but don’t
shut off from the
unseeable distance.

In fall, in fall,
your trees stretch
their long arms in sleeves
of earth-red and

sky-yellow, a little
lop-sided. I take
long walks among them. The grapes
that need frost to ripen them

are amber and grow deep in the
hedge, half-concealed,
the way your beauty grows in long tendrils
half in darkness.

The ache of marriage:

The ache of marriage:

thigh and tongue, beloved,
are heavy with it,
it throbs in the teeth

We look for communion
and are turned away, beloved,
each and each

It is leviathan and we
in its belly
looking for joy, some joy
not to be known outside it

two by two in the ark of
the ache of it.

City Psalm

The killings continue, each second
pain and misfortune extend themselves
in the genetic chain, injustice is done knowingly, and the air
bears the dust of decayed hopes,
yet breathing those fumes, walking the thronged
pavements among crippled lives, jackhammers
raging, a parking lot painfully agleam
in the May sun, I have seen
not behind but within, within the
dull grief, blown grit, hideous
concrete facades, another grief, a gleam
as of dew, an abode of mercy,
have heard not behind but within noise
a humming that drifted into a quiet smile.
Nothing was changed, all was revealed otherwise;
not that horror was not, not that killings did not continue,
but that as if transparent all disclosed
an otherness that was blessed, that was bliss.
I saw Paradise in the dust of the street.

Open Secret

Perhaps one day I shall let myself
approach the mountain—
hear the streams which must flow down it,
lie in a flowering meadow, even
touch my hand to the snow.
Perhaps not. I have no longing to do so.
I have visited other mountain heights.
This one is not, I think, to be known
by close scrutiny, by touch of foot or hand
or entire outstretched body; not by any
familiarity of behavior, any acquaintance
with its geology or the scarring roads
humans have carved in its flanks.
This mountain’s power
lies in the open secret of its remote
apparition, silvery low-relief
coming and going moonlike at the horizon,
always loftier, lonelier, than I ever remember.

The Certainty

They have refined the means of destruction,
abstract science almost
visibly shining,
it is so highly polished. Immaterial weapons
no one could ever hold in their hands
streak across darkness, across great distances,
threading through mazes to arrive
at targets that are concepts—

But one ancient certainty
remains: war
means blood spilling from living bodies,
means severed limbs, blindness, terror,
means grief, agony, orphans, starvation,
prolonged misery, prolonged resentment and hatred and guilt,
means all of these multiplied, multiplied
means, death, death, death and death.

                   

Music by Hozier, “Take Me to Church”

Music by